Job 21:17-21 (NIV) 17 “Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in his anger? 18 How often are they like straw before the wind, like chaff swept away by a gale? 19 [It is said,] ‘God stores up a man’s punishment for his sons.’ Let him repay the man himself, so that he will know it! 20 Let his own eyes see his destruction; let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty. 21 For what does he care about the family he leaves behind when his allotted months come to an end?
On verses 17-21: Whereas Zophar insists that the wicked are cut down in their youth (Job 20), Job has a different perspective. Job finds that wicked people are rarely punished, at least in this lifetime (v17-18). Job wishes that there would be clearer punishment from God of the wicked (v19-21). Job finds that in death, those who prospered while living wicked lives (v23-24) and those who bent over backwards to be righteous (v25) are both treated the same: “side by side they lie in the dust, and worms cover them both.” (v26) Contrary to his friends’ words about how God wipes out the wicked (v27-28), Job finds that there is no clear denunciation of wicked people (v29-30). To Job it seems that wicked men can go their entire lives without much pain and without being repaid for their wickedness (v31). The wicked can even be honoured in death (v32-33). So Job criticizes Zophar’s statements about the wicked being cut down in their prime as nonsense and falsehood (v34).
What can we learn from this? When someone we think is guilty goes unpunished and even prospers in this lifetime, or is honoured in death, like Job we may wonder, “Where is the justice in all of that?” Yet what we see is not all there is. Here are two points worth bearing in mind:
If God had to wipe out every wicked and guilty person, He would need to wipe out you and me as well, for none of us is pure or innocent on our own merit. God does not treat any of us as our sins deserve (see Psalm 103:10-11). In the face of our widespread wickedness and sin, God sent His Son Jesus to make forgiveness available to us all.
God is just and He promises to repay every wrong and avenge every injustice, but He does not necessarily do so during our lives on earth. Eternity is where God equalizes everything. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7-10,
7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
In other words, when we die, all of us must give an account to God for the way we lived on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10). In eternity, God will make sure final justice is served. Those of us who have trusted Jesus as our Saviour will be forgiven of every sin and rewarded for every act of faith. Meanwhile, those who have trusted in themselves instead of Jesus will be repaid for the wicked things they have done. Thus while we still have breath in our lungs, believing in God’s promises “we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), “we make it our goal to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9), and we look forward to being with God for eternity. For it is eternity that God equalizes everything.
Heavenly Father, You are merciful and just. You are the great equalizer. Today I recognize that what I see is not all there is. Thank You that You will equalize everything in eternity. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!